It tends to surprise people that vegetarians get meat cravings, and I’m not sure why. It’s not like the majority of us ditched meat because we hated the taste. I still think about the carnitas and barbecued chicken of my youth with a wistful sigh. What surprised me was the sudden longing for sloppy joes that struck me about a year ago. Up until then, I’d forgotten how much I loved my mom’s sloppy joes and, yes, even my school cafeteria’s crummy version.
I started looking for a vegetarian alternative, but too many of them relied on using fake meat products. As much as I enjoy the occasional veggie burger or soyrizo burrito, I try not to rely on overly processed stuff. Thankfully, Isa Moskowitz and Terry Romero, authors of vegan cookbook bibles like Veganomicon, came up with a lentil-based recipe called Snobby Joes that trumps any meaty one I’ve tasted. (Sorry, Mom.) Everyone who’s tried it, meat eaters and veggies alike, have become instant fans of the smoky, spicy lentils spiked with garlic, tomato, and zesty cilantro. I love serving it at dinner parties and for houseguests, because it often destroys their preconceived notions about how lentils taste. Snobby Joe filling doesn’t look pretty on its own, but when it’s stuffed between perfectly toasted kaiser rolls with all the fixings, believe me, no one notices.
This is comfort food at its best—forgiving, adaptable, healthful, and filling. There’s something comforting about making it, too. You have to stand in front of the heated pot, continuously stirring the ingredients together, until the entire house smells like something delicious and intangible—like tomato sauce mingling with nostalgia. Classed-up cafeteria fare they may be, but there’s no denying that Snobby Joes are in a class by themselves.
Photo source: Cowomally (cc)
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